Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued an urgent consumer alert Thursday, notifying New Yorkers of a new telephone scam in which consumers receive calls from people pretending to be with the Chinese Consulate, who demand payment in exchange for a package or to prevent punishment from the consulate.
Residents who receive such calls should immediately contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-FTC-HELP.
“It’s unconscionable that someone would prey on New Yorkers — including vulnerable recent immigrants — to try to turn a profit,” Schneiderman said. “As these scammers continue to target people across the state, I’m urging all New Yorkers to be on high alert and immediately contact the FTC if they receive such a call.”
Some residents said they had received calls or messages instructing them to pick up a package, while others received threats urging them to provide information to avoid being in trouble with the Chinese Consulate.
Several consumers were led to believe that if they did not offer up information or pay a fine they would suffer negative consequences, including arrest upon traveling to China. In order to resolve the matter, the scammers asked consumers for their bank or credit card information or demanded that they make a bank transfer to the consulate.
In multiple instances, the scammers left messages asking consumers to return the call a number that rerouted consumers to a 911 emergency call center in Polk County, Ark. Beginning Wednesday morning, the call center received 500 calls from New Yorkers targeted by the scam. None of the consumers who reported receiving this call paid the scammers any money.
According to the FTC, the scammers appear to be calling from outside of the U.S. and targeting people with Chinese last names, including recent immigrants. The New York Police Department reports that since December 2017, 21 Chinese immigrants have been victimized and lost a total of $2.5 million.
Extortion scams are designed to trick victims into paying money to avoid potential harm. In addition to this new scam targeting the Chinese-American community, the Attorney General urges New Yorkers to be aware of other scams, such as the Grandparent scam, the Kidnapping scam, and the IRS scam, which are all designed to frighten victims into making a payment. The resulting harm to consumers can be devastating. In many cases, consumers could end up losing a significant portion of their savings.